Columbus Crew v Inter Miami
Two Eastern Conference rivals clash at Lower.com Field in the early hours of Sunday morning when the Columbus Crew take on an Inter Miami team who will be desperately seeking to end a run of six straight defeats.
When you are on a run of that kind the last thing you need is an away trip to Columbus, where the only points the home side have dropped this term were against the New England Revolution, who are currently the best team in the league.
Six defeats on the spin is never a good thing but it is even worse when they are deserved. They haven’t scored in the last three matches and according to the Infogol model have the second worst xG rating in the MLS. Worse still, only CF Montreal have a worse xGA number this season so the league table is not lying where they are concerned.
It is no surprise that Columbus Crew are so good at home. They have arguably the best player in the league in Lucas Zelarayan, while Wilfried Nancy has transformed Aidan Morris at the heart of the midfield.
It is not all about Zelarayan though. Christian Ramirez, Alex Matan and the fit again Cucho Hernandez are all very good for MLS level and with Miami very soft in the centre of the pitch since the Gregore injury, you would expect the Crew to take full advantage.
I mentioned last week how Miami are not on their travels. They duly lost to Houston in that game and face a much tougher test here. I expect a Columbus win in this one.
Toronto FC v New York City
Two more Eastern Conference teams battle it out at BMO Field in the early hours of Sunday morning when Toronto FC host New York City FC in a clash between two of the more vaunted teams in this competition.
It is fair to say these two teams are in different form this season. Toronto sit fourth from bottom in the Eastern Conference table with just one win from nine matches, but six of their games have been drawn so they have just been lacking that missing ingredient or spark.
With that in mind, it was interesting that Toronto FC went into the market on the final day of the transfer window on Monday to sign C.J. Sapong from Nashville.
His scoring numbers might not be what you’d like from a number nine, but he can be the focal point the two class acts Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi can work from, and I expect to see a real improvement from the Canadian side in attack in particular.
New York City FC had a bit of a slower start to the season but they have been building up a nice head of steam now that they have found the right combination in attacking areas which benefits everyone in the squad.
One thing which has helped that is the reliability in the number 6 role of James Sands. The former Rangers loanee has returned to Yankee Stadium and freed up Keaton Parks to play in a more advanced area and the result of that is five goals in their last two matches.
Matches between these two teams tend to be high scoring. New York City won 5-4 in their last meeting, and with Toronto likely to improve in attack with the introduction of Sapong, as well as having Insigne back up to speed, I think this one will be high scoring too.
MLS is often a league to side with the attacks over the defences and this is very much one of those matches.
Aurora v Royal Pari
Aurora look to be finally competing midtable after years of fighting off relegation under manager Roberto Perez. Their back five of Sanchez, Zaracho, Ballivian, Barboza and Sejas is almost ever present this season while up front wily Reinoso and Ramallo are some of the most prolific goalscorers in the league, albeit with barely three goals to their names this season.
Pari for their part despite the bringing back of Mosquera in the hotseat continue to struggle and implode, coming away from a midweek 5-1 butchering at the hands of Bolivar. With one win, one defeat and five defeats, the manager must already be feeling the heat and the only bright spot to be found is the regular goalscoring of Sellecchia and Correa.
Interestingly despite this only being the 14th meeting between the sides, this fixture has travelled a fair bit, having been played in Cochabamba, Montero, Sacaba, Santa Cruz and Warnes. Pari is overwhelmingly ahead in the head to head leading 9-2, and even in Cochabamba they lead the home side 3-1.
Despite history being on Royal Pari’s side, Aurora are too strong and the points should stay at home. Over 2.5 goals also has a fair chance.
Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls
Another clash between two teams in the Eastern Conference takes place at Soldier Field where the Chicago Fire host the New York Red Bulls in a match between sides who sit outside the playoff zone, but who will have aspirations to be in them when it matters.
The Fire will probably feel aggrieved to be in the position they are in because late goals have absolutely killed them and another one cost them last week. They are 2-4-2 for the season but their 10 points could easily be 14-15 without those late goals going against them, and then they would be pushing the top four.
There were lots of positives even in defeat for Chicago last week. They dominated the play against an Atlanta United side which holds claims for being technically the best in the league, but couldn’t make the most of some good chances which they created.
The good news for Chicago here, other than the fact that they are at home where they are yet to lose this season, is that the Red Bulls arrive with issues in attack.
They have only scored six goals in nine matches this season, a total which only CF Montreal are unable to match or better in the Eastern Conference this term, and the suspension of DP signing Dante Vanzeir and the fallout from that has done them no favours.
New York will be without some key players here. As well as Vanzeir, Lewis Morgan, Frankie Amaya and Luquinhas are all missing for the visitors and goals could continue to be a struggle as a result.
I like what Chicago are doing this season and back on home soil if there is a winner of this one then I fancy it will be the Fire who come out on top.
Sporting Kansas City v CF Montreal
Western Conference meets the Eastern Conference at Children’s Mercy Park in the early hours of Sunday morning when the sides bottom of each table collide when Sporting Kansas City host CF Montreal.
These two teams are the lowest scoring teams in the MLS this season, but weirdly I expect goals in this match, largely because both defences have been terrible this term and are missing some key cogs.
Montreal are without the likes of Samuel Piette and they traded away Kamal Miller recently, and have conceded a joint league high 17 goals from a league high xGA of 15.0. Sporting Kansas City are in the same boat. They will be missing Andreu Fontas who is suspended after his red card in New England last week while Kortne Ford, Kayden Pierre and Tim Leibold will all be missing.
That means it could be anyone at centre-back for SKC in this match and when you consider they have already leaked 13 goals in nine matches this season that is far from ideal.
Between them, these two teams have conceded 30 goals in 17 matches this season and while both have floundered in front of goal, the underlying numbers suggest the chance creation has been there but the finishing has been lacking.
Montreal picked up a morale boosting win last week while Kansas City scored three in a confidence enhancing win in the US Open Cup in midweek so I’m expecting both attacks to revert closer to their xG levels here, particularly against second string defences. Over 2.5 goals appeals to me.
Inter Milan v Lazio
This is the other game that affects the title race at the weekend and it now seems that it will be played before Napoli vs Salernitana. Regardless of the title implications which really are not on the minds of Inter and Lazio, this could be a fascinating game.
Lazio are the team to chase in the top four race and they come into this game at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with a seven-point lead over Inter. That being cut to four points would be a serious concern, especially given Lazio were beaten 1-0 by Torino last night.
They have to ensure that no rot sets in just at the crucial moment of the season and that is why they will be playing to beat Inter in their own back yard.
As for the Nerazzurri, they are buoyed by Champions League progression and the 3-0 win away at Empoli last time out. The major boost from that game is not just the three points, but it is the fact that Romelu Lukaku scored twice and assisted for Lautaro Martinez. The Belgian looked the fittest that he has looked all season.
There were times where he would run the channels at pace like in the title-winning season and the fans have not seen that at all this season so far. If he can find some sort of form now, it could propel Inter into the top four. It certainly makes them a much more dangerous proposition for Lazio to deal with and that is why both teams should be finding the net in what could be a great game.
*Bet links only appear when accessing from mobile.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
18+ please gamble responsibly.
Haven’t got a Betfair account? You’re in luck…
Sign up to Betfair and get £30 in free football bet builders when you place a £10 football bet on the Betfair Sportsbook. Here are the two possible outcomes: